5
"Educate the
Public"

IF IVY LEE SUPPOSED that "the facts" he propagated would induce the public to see things through the Rockefellers' eyes, the response his press work received cast a dark shadow over this assumption. Lee's efforts did little to cleanse the reputation of the Rockefellers--or of Standard Oil--in the public mind. Even thirty years after the Rockefellers first hired Lee--in 1945--a high-level executive of Standard Oil of New Jersey (still a Rockefeller company) was forced to concede that the "history of Standard Oil in its relations with the public has not been too fortunate."

Back in the days after the turn of the century, in the "trust busting" days of Teddy Roosevelt, Standard Oil was regarded as the prime example of a powerful, grasping, iniquitous business organization. . . . In the 30 years or more that followed, very little was done to offset this idea. 1

On occasion Lee was able to convince John D. Rockefeller to partake in some minimal public relations schemes. In some of these instances, news coverage improved. An arranged golf match between the old man and a reporter for the New York World, for example, yielded a series of cheerful puff pieces presenting "the human side of the Rockefellers." 2 Such publicity stunts, however, misrepresent the normal cast of Lee's work--or of Rockefeller's public posture-- during their long association. Standard Oil's policies toward the public changed little, and Lee was left, for the most part, with the for-

-82-

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